During the 2013-2014 school year, the School Breakfast Program made it possible for more than 13.2 million students to eat a healthy morning meal each day. In a recovering economy, the program is even more important as a support for students who may not have the financial means to eat a well-balanced breakfast at home.
Learn the facts about the School Breakfast Program and how you can empower students to have a healthy breakfast each morning.
FACT #1: School breakfast gives students a healthy start to the day.
The passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ushered in a new set of nutrition standards that increased the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains required to be served with each meal offered through school breakfast and lunch.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 90% of schools have successfully implemented these new standards. Research indicates that school breakfast is linked to a lower probability of child and youth obesity as well as improved overall diet quality.
FACT #2: School breakfast supports academic achievement.
Research shows students who eat breakfast closer to test-taking time perform better on standardized tests than their counterparts who skip breakfast or eat it at home. Also, students who have school breakfast are more attentive, exhibit less disruptive behavior and have fewer instances of tardiness and absenteeism.
FACT #3: The School Breakfast Program serves far fewer students than the National School Lunch Program
Despite the program’s availability and its myriad benefits, the School Breakfast Program remains underutilized. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)’s School Breakfast Scorecard, for every 100 students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals and participated in the National School Lunch Program, only 53 of those students also had school breakfast.
Barriers such as hectic morning schedules, stigma and the timing of school breakfast make it difficult for students to eat this meal at school. To overcome these barriers, it is critical to make breakfast a part of the school day.
There are three common strategies to improve the way school breakfast is served and boost program participation:
- Breakfast in the Classroom: Breakfasts are delivered directly to classrooms using temperature-controlled, portable bags or transporters;
- “Grab and Go:” Breakfasts are distributed at carts or kiosks to students in high-traffic areas throughout the school; and
- Second Chance Breakfast: Breakfast is made available during an extended break, typically between first and second periods.
Support from parents and engaged community members help to make these breakfast service models a reality in schools. Here are four easy ways for you to get involved and maximize the reach of the School Breakfast Program in your school district:
- Get the stats on school breakfast. Contact your district’s school nutrition director. Find out how many students are participating in the School Breakfast Program. Equip yourself with the numbers so that you can demonstrate the need to increase the reach of the School Breakfast Program.
- Talk to your school principal. As school leaders, principals play a major role in determining school programming for their buildings. Set up a meeting with your school principal to talk about how school breakfast fosters academic success. Share the breakfast numbers for your school and the different ways that school breakfast can be served in order to boost program participation.
- Attend a school board meeting. School boards determine academic programming for a district. Meet with school board members and school officials, such as the superintendent, at an upcoming school board meeting. Use the public comment portion of the meeting to discuss how school breakfast supports the learning environment and the current reach of the district’s School Breakfast Program. Garner support and explore next steps for piloting breakfast in the classroom, “grab and go,” or second chance breakfast.
- Stay connected. Go to org to access free resources that highlight effective strategies to increase the reach of the School Breakfast Program. Join FRAC’s Meals Matters newsletter to stay up to date.
Mieka Sanderson is a child nutrition policy analyst for school nutrition programs at the Food Research & Action Center. She assists local and state level partners expand the reach of the School Breakfast Program among low-income youth.